July 1, 2020
Q - Does Darien require officers to de-escalate situations whenever reasonably possible by communicating, creating or maintaining distance and eliminating the need for force?
A- Yes, all members of the Darien Police Department are trained annually in both de-escalation methods and techniques as well as “Fair and Impartial Policing.” We currently have 14 officers formally trained in Crisis Intervention Techniques (CIT) and are continually training additional officers on an ongoing basis as well. Our goal is to have as many officers as possible trained in CIT as we move forward.
Q - Are officers required to intervene and stop excessive force used by other officers?
A-Yes, officers are trained and fully expected to intervene if they see any violation of law or if excessive force is being used. Officers are subject to discipline if they fail to intervene in any situation where it is called for.
Q – Are use of force incidents investigated and reported?
A-Yes, any and all uses of force are fully documented and reported. Our General Orders reflect that merely handcuffing a compliant subject is considered a use of force and is fully documented in the incident report. In an effort to be fully transparent, accountable and fully compliant with use of force reporting, the Darien Police Department reports even the “display” of force, i.e. those cases where a weapon such as a Conducted Electrical Weapon (i.e. Taser) or firearm is displayed but not actually used by the officer(s). The actions of each and every officer involved in any given incident are reported individually as each officer’s actions must be independently and objectively reasonable within both departmental and statewide policy.
Q – What is the review process for any use of force incident both within the department and by any independent body or commission?
A- All use of force incidents are documented on the State of Connecticut Use of Force reporting form. This form is completed by the ranking supervisor of the shift when the incident occurred The supervisor, after reviewing the incident reports and, in some cases, the body worn camera video, makes the initial determination if the use of force was reasonable and within both state statute, POST-C (Connecticut Police Officer Standards and Training Council) standards and department policy. The report is then reviewed by Command and Administrative Staff (Administrative Lieutenant, Training Lieutenant and Captains). Finally, all use of force reports are ultimately reviewed by the Chief of Police to ensure accuracy, completeness and compliance with above stated standards. After department review, all use of force reports are submitted to the State of Connecticut for Use of Force review in order to be fully compliant in state reporting requirements.
Q – What is the process by which we hire new officers, including background checks?
A- The application form for initial employment as a police officer is extremely thorough. Candidates first must achieve a defined passing score on a written test. This written test is fully vetted for both validity and reliability and is administered by an outside professional testing agency. Candidates are then extensively interviewed by a panel consisting of internal police staff members of varying ranks. Viable candidates are then moved forward to a separate interview with the Darien Police Commission. A successful interview with the Police Commission places promising and still viable applicants at the “conditional offer” phase of employment. However, at this point the process has really only just begun.
We then obtain a release from the applicant and begin the formal background process. The process is assigned to a member of the Command Staff, usually the Commander of the Detective Division. We interview all references, former and current employers and independently verify reported educational achievements by contracting with a professional firm who verifies educational achievements. We look closely in criminal databases, civil databases, motor vehicle records, and any other pertinent sources of information that are reasonable, lawful and allowable. Candidates are required to disclose their online presence and all social media platforms. Finally, the applicant is subject to very stringent psychological testing including a polygraph test by a licensed practitioner and a physical which includes a complete drug screen. Successful candidates are then offered probationary employment with the Town. Once offered probationary employment, the candidate is typically trained at the State of Connecticut POST-C Police Academy which is an approximate six month course of full time study. Once successfully completing the Police Academy, officers return to our agency to being working in the field for a period of approximately ten weeks under the supervision of a Field Training Officer (FTO). Only after completing all these steps is an officer ready to work on their own. All probationary officers must work a full year from the date of full certification before being offered non-probationary employment status.
Q – What is the department’s disciplinary process for officers who violate the department’s rules or laws?
A- The Darien Police Department has long had an extremely comprehensive, fair and reasonable disciplinary process established in the Department’s General Orders. The department promotes and fully expects professional public safety service from all its employees. The disciplinary process follows a logical and reasonable progression of progressive discipline while simultaneously allowing due process for employees. We expect nothing less than fully honorable, lawful and professional performance from our officers and staff. Internal discipline can range from admonishment, verbal warnings or retraining in minor instances up to termination of employment for serious or repeated violations of the General Orders. For conduct that may rise to the level of criminality, the State’s Attorney’s Office would direct the investigation into those occurrences where an arrest may be warranted.
Q – Are officers banned from shooting at moving vehicles?
A – Yes, the firing of warning shots or the firing at a fleeing vehicle’s tires is prohibited. The operator of a patrol vehicle in pursuit of an offender is not allowed to fire a weapon at the fleeing vehicle under any circumstances. Shooting at a vehicle is permitted only when deadly force is necessary and allowable under both the Darien Police Department General Orders and the Connecticut General Statutes.
Q – What is being done to educate officers on racial profiling and racial bias?
A – All officers in the Darien Police Department are trained yearly by prominent experts in the legal field who are POST-C certified instructors. This annual training includes both “Fair and Impartial” and “Bias Free” policing. Additionally, several ranking officers have received advanced “train the trainer” instruction on Fair and Impartial policing and De-escalation and are certified to teach on the topic. As part of the three year POST-C recertification process, all police officers in the state of Connecticut must complete a mandated block of instruction in the areas of Racial Profiling, Bigotry and Bias. Racial profiling is prohibited by law in the State of Connecticut. Our officers are effectively trained in this area, fully understand that racial profiling is absolutely prohibited, and even more importantly, why it is prohibited and not at all reflective of what a professional law enforcement agency like ours stands for.
Q – Do we use body cameras?
A – All sworn officers in the Darien Police Department are issued Axon Body Worn Cameras (BWCs). Officers are instructed and expected to activate the BWC during virtually all interactions with the public while on regular patrol duty and in uniform. Each video is catalogued and retained for specific time frame as set by State retention standards and department policy. In addition, each of our marked patrol vehicles are equipped with an in-car camera system that function in tandem with the BWCs. The cameras can be activated manually by the officer at any time, but are automatically activated whenever the emergency lights of the vehicle are turned on when the patrol vehicle is being operated at elevated, highway speeds.
Q – Do all the states have similar requirements for reporting and training of officers?
A – Training for police officers varies greatly across the country. The State of Connecticut has in place a very thorough police recruit training regimen that is recognized nationally as being of high quality and incorporating best practices in law enforcement and public safety services. Similarly, the reporting and training requirements for use of force, racial profiling, in service training, de-escalation, bias free policing and other topics are recognized as being at the forefront of training initiatives across the country.
Q- What is your Social Media policy for your employees?
A- The Darien Police Department recognizes the use of social media in both personal and professional settings to enhance communication, collaboration and information exchange. It is the policy of this Department to allow its employees to exercise their First Amendment rights with regard to the reasonable use of social media to the fullest extent. The Department encourages uses of social media that do not unnecessarily disrupt the operation of the Department or damage the professional image, credibility or reputation of members of the Department.
- During off-duty hours, Department personnel are free to express themselves as private citizens on social media sites to the degree that their speech does not suggest or imply that the views expressed are those of the Department.
- The posting of any of the speech described herein by personnel identifying themselves as an employee of the Department is strictly prohibited; speech containing obscene or sexually explicit language, images, acts, and statements or other forms of speech that ridicule, malign, disparage, or otherwise express bias against any race, religion, ethnicity, group, organization or any protected class of individuals.
- The posting of any of the speech described herein by personnel identifying themselves as an employee of the Department is strictly prohibited.
- When using social media, Department personnel must be mindful that their speech becomes part of the worldwide electronic domain, whether posted by the employee or later forwarded or shared by third parties. Any employee’s posted content has the potential to be shared broadly, reaching individuals with whom the employee did not intend to communicate. Therefore, adherence to the Department’s Code of Conduct, is always required in the personal use of social media.
- Department personnel are prohibited from posting anything obtained through their official duties to any personal social media platform.
- Department personnel are cautioned that speech, on or off duty, made pursuant to their official duties is not protected under the First Amendment. Speech deemed “pursuant” is hereby defined as speech that “owes its existence to the employee’s professional duties and responsibilities.”